Tuesday, December 4, 2007


i'm recovering on a quiet tuesday from a busy weekend in berlin, germany, where we battled to move on to the finals of the european cup for women's hockey.

we set out last thursday morning to spend 5 days with our czech teammates, coaches, a few members of the media and family of the girls. thursday found us checking into our hotel and heading to the rink for a skate. friday we had our first game against lugano, switzerland. we had a tough battle, but ended up losing the game 5-2. we had about 3 minutes in the third period where they scored 3 goals. they never looked back after that.

saturday morning, much to our chagrin, we had a practice. slavia had never done that before (game-day skate) so coach karel wasn't exactly stellar at planning drills we could all appreciate on game day. alas, it all turned out okay in the end as we played france that day and wiped them out 8-1. i scored the first two goals of the game.

sunday, we had a quiet day and prepped for our upcoming game at 5:30. we were to play osc berlin, the hosts of the tournament, also tied at 1-1. the winner of sunday's game moved on to stockholm, sweden, for the final round to determine the european women's champion. we ended the game in a 3-3 tie, went into overtime in a fruitless effort on both team's parts to score a goal, then headed into a shoot out for the rights to move on. we shot first and after 3 shooters each team, it was still 3-3. we had to start in the second round of 3. our shooter missed; theirs scored. it was heartbreaking, to say the least. what a crappy way to lose. though i hear it's a great way to win. can't say i'd really know.

i learned a lot of czech over the weekend, having spent a lot of time with czech teamates and coaches. learned some new things, like that for a snack czech playerw would bring a bag of shaved salami to munch on. i thought that was pretty funny, but maybe she thought the same thing about my plain rice cakes with peanut butter!

even though we didn't move on, i feel like we gained a lot from the weekend. we saw that we can play with the next level of hockey, beyond what we see in the czech league, or even in the ewhl. i think there's hope for this club, but there are still so many things i'd like to be able to share with them about the game of hockey. if only i was fluent in czech!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

team slovenia

i had an interesting experience yesterday. i wasn't in the lineup for slavia and so spent my pre-game time at the hotel down the street doing some emailing and chatting with home. when i arrived at the rink, i found the game delayed by an hour because slovenia had been waiting in prague for us at the home of the men's slavia club. our home ice is in kralupy, 50kms outside prague. anyways, it came to be known that triglav (the slovenian team) only had brought 7 players with them... on the 700km journey from triglav to prague. coach karel, a big grin on his face, asked me if i wanted to suit up for slovenia. i hesitated, paused a moment to think about it, shrugged my shoulders and said, SURE.

the game was a blow out, slavia beat us 13-1. but it was one of the most fun games i've played this year. women's hockey is small in slovenian (men's hockey is really big) and the women that play on the team play just because it's fun. for them, it's a hobby. and it was great for me to sit in their dressing room with them, soak up the lighthearted atmosphere and help to remind me why i love this game so much. with only 7 skaters, i got a TON of ice time. and playing slavia, an extremely fast team with 3 solid lines, i had a cardiovascular workout like i haven't had since i got here. lungs were definitely burning well into the night last night.

one cool thing that happened was in between the second and third i asked barbara, the slovenian who spoke perfect english and was a great gal, about their d-zone coverage. she said they didn't have one, so i started to suggest a basic coverage we could try. as i drew on the paper, every girl from the team got up and knelt and stood around me so that they could see what i was doing. barbara translated a little, though the girls could understand english, if not speak it. it was so fun to teach this basic hockey principal to this group of very open and teachable girls. we had more success trying to do that - things were calmer and somewhat under control in our zone after that. another fun part was telling the girls to play a box on d-zone coverage for penalty kill. they picked it up so fast and we were good at it! we held off 3 hc slavia powerplay lines until with 6 second left they finally put one in.

after the game, the girls thanked me and gave me a great little fleece triglav tuque to take home with me. they clapped and said they'd like to take me home with them... "we've got lots of great looking guys in slovenia!", barbara told me. when we're in slovenia two weeks from now on our italian/slovenian tour, barbara and i are going to go for coffee. yesterday was an unexpected blessing!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a sporting week

last saturday we had a rare day off. usually our weekends are filled with games and game prep, so we took the opportunity to take in some of the other athletics available in prague.

saturday afternoon we watched the Sparta Women's Basketball team play against Gambrinus Brno in what started out as a close game, but eventually turned into a 100-51 blow out. our friend from aia, erin, is the assistant coach on the team and we've gotten to know one of her players, nicole who is from the states, a little bit. if Sparta had had two of nicole, they might have won the game. she was great to watch. Brno boasted having a WNBA player from the states as well as 9 czech national team players.

after dinner at a pizza place in our neighbourhood, we headed to the Sparta fotbal field to take in a game: czech national team vs. slovak national team. i can now call myself a fotbal fan! seriously, the energy in that place was so exciting and the athleticism of those guys... whew, it was awesome! after each czech goal (they won 3-1, by the way) the whole stadium would get on their feet and yell this catchy chant that we obviously did not understand. we're learning czech, but when 17,000 people are yelling it, it's kind of hard to understand. but we joined in with the jumping, giggling and grinning and not quite knowing what was happening. we asked some of our teammates the next day and what the czechs were yelling was, "anyone who's not jumping isn't czech". good thing we joined in... those are some passionate fans. included at the game were a couple hundred police officers, officers on horses and tanks. thankfully none of the previously mentioned were needed, and after the 10 minute firework production everyone went home tired and happy (or to the bar to drink the night away - we took the former option).

the next sporting event was tuesday night when jackie and i hit up a Sparta Men's hockey game against Karlovy Vary. Sparta boasts the former nhl player, Petr Nedved. it was an exciting game with two goals in the third period, one to each team, to leave the game tied and force overtime. nothing come from the 4 on 4 ot, so a shoot out followed. karlovy vary ended up taking the game. it was an exciting night and again, czech fans love their teams! there was a section of the arena packed with fans wearing sparta gear and colours, pounding drums, swinging scarves, shouting and hollering the whole game. they put the cheerleaders to shame with their chants (yes, there were cheerleaders).

the sports scene in czech is full of passion and loyalty. something we could maybe learn from, eh rider fans?! speaking of which, we've figured out that the grey cup will be aired on a tsn station we can pick up over here. we're heading to a pub sunday night to watch the game at 11:30. even in czech, i guess us prairie girls still bleed green and white! :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

russia no more

after the game on sunday our agent, michal, informed us that we are no longer going to russia for the next round of the european cup. instead, berlin, germany, will be the host site of our grouping for the semi-final round. while still being very excited about spending a week in berlin, i'm still somewhat disappointed that we will not be heading to moscow. it would have been a historical experience.

we've had a quieter two weeks with only practices during both. this weekend we have just one game on saturday, with sunday off. we're very much looking forward to being able to go to a church service, for once! next week we're back to practicing 3 times with a somewhat smaller team since it's the week of centralization for the national team and the girls will be gathering for that elsewhere.

sara, heather and i are thinking of making a trip to salzburg to take the "sound of music" tour on the friday of next week. little bit of history, little bit of fiction and a beautiful setting with some fun people sounds like a great mix to me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

i kissed a girl...

there seems to be this culture in the czech republic where as a sign of greeting, either to say hello or bid farewell, women give each other a kiss. on the mouth. the first time i saw this in kralupy, playing with the aia hockey team, i wondered if i was entering a team where many of the girls had girlfriend relationships, which is fine, but good to know. but after chatting with my slovak friend, i learned that this is normal here.

my defense partner, Paja, is 16 years old and a completely fun and crazy girl. we've become good buddies at hockey and i know i have earned her respect. the biggest indication to me was after the game yesterday when she was shouting "cau" and "ahoj" to everyone, and she came over and gave me a farewell kiss on the mouth. i was shocked, but i think i played it pretty cool. it was quite the experience! i guess moving overseas really is about moving out of your comfort zone - and learning new traditions!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

a day in the life of...

i'm starting to settle into the rhythm of life here in the czech republic. i know it sounds crazy, since i've been here for almost three months. in 3 days, it will be that time span exactly. and less than two months until i return home for christmas break.

a typical day in my life here can look a few different ways:

workday - on these days, i get up at 6:45AM and get ready to catch the metro/bus to get to work. i need to hit the metro by 7:20, since I have to catch a bus out to Uhonice, the town my school is in, by 8:10. by 8:30, I'm at work, though i don't need to be there until 9. that bus is the only one out to uhonice until 10, so it's a necessary evil. all in all, my travel out there takes about an hour and a half. when we've drive, it takes 20-25mins! killer, that's for sure. then my workday spans from 9am-3pm, when i catch the bus back to the metro at a stop called zlichin. around 4:15, i'm back at home. usually lying on my bed in exhaustion after a day with the uber energetic kids of whom i don't understand.

day off - these are days with no work, so jackie and i attend czech language classes, tuesday/thursday for an hour and a half each day. the classes are growing increasingly fun as everyone begins to relax, get to know each other, and laugh at our horrible pronunciation of czech phonetics. afterwards, we often head to an internet cafe to write home, check email and try and get somewhat caught up on what is going on in the western world. on thursdays now, i've started going to the sport university to the english conversation class that aia puts on. it was a great time this past week and much interesting conversation was had with students from the university.

game day - we often play afternoons, so it's wake up and eat breakfast, often watch an episode or two of "lost" over bfast and then get ready to go to the game. we have to be at the rink two hours before the game, and need to leave to get there 45 minutes before that. so about 3 hours before game time, we hop in the car and drive out to kralupy. after games, we often go for dinner, to see a movie with friends, or just make some food and hit the hay. after especially long games, we're often ready to just crash.

evening activities usually include hanging out with aia friends, going to our bible study on thursday evenings, family night with aia, going to movies with teammates or just having a quiet evening at home. we've pulled out the dice and had a few games of that. we've also had friends over for dinner and both sara and jackie have made some killer dishes. i have yet to show my talents in the kitchen... if they haven't disappeared on me, that is.

we had a great game yesterday with Agordo out of Italy. they came out absolutely flying and caught us a little flat footed. it was the fastest game we've played here and it was fabulous. it felt great to play the game at that kind of speed again. after the second we were tied 2-2. jackie and i were commenting before the opening face-off of period 3 that we've got to put some pucks in the net, as we weren't sure we had enough in us for overtime. the game ended with a score of 8-2. i guess we know how to turn it on when we want to! we play again this afternoon against a czech league team. then tomorrow, the week cycle starts all over again!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

russia, flu shots and toast = happy thanksgiving

after 22 years of thanksgiving meals at home - family, friends, food and much festivity - i experience my first thanksgiving on my own. it was a sorry end to a good weekend. i had toast. the bright spot of the evening was jackie's homemade apple crisp. it was a little taste of home. and i can't say i've ever had that food pairing before. things are always interesting here!

this weekend saw us win our side of the quarterfinals for the european cup. as great as that sounds, don't fear you missed anything too exciting - we won the second game 10-0 and the third 19-0. i almost felt bad for the romanian team we beat by the latter score. then i thought of the teams romania had to beat to be champions of their country - and i felt sorry for how terrible those teams must be! yikes. i'm thankful the czech republic has progressed beyond that level, byfar.

in preparation for our little jaunt to russia in november, we had flu shots after practice yesterday. it went something like this: practice, stretching, shower, flu shot. all right there in the dressing room. kinda crazy. at home we'd probably go to the clinic, but apparently they bring the clinic to you over here. or maybe that's an example of how things roll at slavia - we've kind of got the connections (or is it money?). i'm not sure - probably both.

this morning, i went to the doctor. in our little sauna episode of last week i seemed to get a little bit of water in my inner ear. it persisted in calling my ear home and over the past 7 days has caused me a substantial amount of grief. a teammate accompanied me to the ear specialist today and i discovered that i just might not have the medical coverage i thought. when the doctor went to write my prescription (i don't have an infection, just a bad headcold and my ear is inflammed), she wrote down my teammate's medical and personal information so that it would be covered by the czech health care system. this is a bit of a worry and something we will be talking to our agent about very quickly. we want to ensure we are covered on any occasion here.

we have a night off tonite and i think we'll take in a film. thankfully the flicks here are in english, with czech subtitles, so we can enjoy it without it becoming too cerebrally taxing. alas, i say farewell for now. happy belated thanksgiving!

Friday, October 5, 2007

one down, two to go

we played our first game in the champions league tournament today. we are hosting teams from hungary, romania and italy in the first round to qualify for the european cup. slavia gets to be the czech representative because they won the czech league last year. for some strange reason, jackie, sara and i can play with them despite having absolutely no czech relatives. i don't know how that works, but i'm pretty sure slavia is pumped that it does.

we won the game over bolzano (italy), 4-2. i just happened to score two of those goals, so it felt great to contribute on the scoreboard in a pretty important game. the team that comes out on top this weekend will head to moscow in november for the next round of the tournament (it's the european cup, also called the champions league). i can't even imagine how exciting that would be. and different. and scary. but it's looking pretty positive for us having the chance to go, based on the competition here this weekend. bolzano was, apparently, the best we can expect.

this evening we went over to erin and heather's for family night with athletes in action. it basically consists of a GREAT, homecooked, NORTH AMERICAN meal and hanging out with some pretty sweet people.

seeing as you probably don't know who the aia crew is here, i'll take a minute and introduce everyone. billy and adrianne have been here for around 10 years. they are full time and long term missionaries with athletes in action, through campus crusade for christ. they have three kids: Abigail, 5, Levi, 3, and Adam, 3 months. erin is also in the czech republic on a long term basis. she's a coach with the women's basketball team, sparta, after having previously played here for quite a few years. heather is from texas and is short term, which we call a stinter. she's a volleyball gal and helps with english classes at the uni. zach plays american football (NOT soccer) and is also long term in the czech. ernie is a wrestler and is in the czech with a different organization from aia, but is living with zach and we get to hang out with him at family nights, too. then there's us 3 canadians, as we are referred to, that round the group out. there are also others playing on sports teams throughout the czech republic, but we'll probably only see them 2 or 3 times before christmas on big group family nights. it's a great group and one i am very thankful for!

we've also started taking czech classes. jackie and i attend on tuesday/thursday for an hour and a half; sara and heather go monday/wednesdays. there are usually around 10 people in our class. so far we've worked on a basic conversation when you are introduced to someone new, and the numers from 1-100. i feel like everyday i'm learning new words and interacting with my teammates helps to reinforce things in my head. the language is really cool and i'm exciting to continue learning it. it's complicated, but simple at the same time. pronunciation is really simple as every letter you pronounce exactly the same way, no matter the usage. the whole grammar thing is a bit tougher. you'd have to be a lifer here to master or perfect the language, i'd say. it is similar to french in some ways, and for my two month stint in quebec in 2005, i'm very thankful for now. even just having the discipline to stick with learning a language and knowing some of the hurdles to expect in doing so are both very helpful.

speaking of the language, i learned a helpful phrase today: delam si srandu. it means, "i'm just kidding". as there are many jokes and much laughter in the dressing room, it's a great phrase to know. the girls in my corner of the room were totally pumped when i pulled it out today!

that's all for now, i'll keep you updated on the status of the rest of our games... and whether we're headed to mother russia!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

dobrou chut!

or bon appetit, as we like to say in our english speaking world. which makes complete sense, seeing as the phrase is in french. alas, i do not seek to understand, simply to explain that this blog is finally about everyone's favorite subject: FOOD.

czech cuisine is... interesting. we can see traces of it throughout canadian culture, actually, being the multi-cultural bread basket we are. meat and potatoes with sauce, goulash, sausages... etc.

a typical czech meal includes some type of meat, a starch or carbohydrate and a small allotment of vegetables (on a good day). and of course, it starts with a steaming hot bowl of soup. sometimes it's broth soup, sometimes it's creamy. it can have chunks of potato, meat or even balognie. generally, the soups have been quite good. but unfortunately, i'm often full at this point.

it continues though... for example, at the czech school i work at, the following are possible menu scenarios:
-one of rice, potatoes or dumplings (essentially, potato bread)
-one of beef, pork, or sausage (the sausage we've had there has this sort of gellied, glazed, gooey coating to it... and the kids LOVE it, it's probably their favorite meal).
-vegetables might be a steamed assortment, cooked spinach, or pickled cabbage. the latter is my personal favorite. it's quite good actually.
-lastly, a generous portion of sauce covers the meat and sometimes the rice/potato/dumpling. it's usually pretty tasty.

another czech favorite is a chunk of cheese, battered and deep fried. it comes with a plate of fries and some ketchup (not the north american version, mind you).

food i've heard of from fellow foreigners, but not tried (and probably won't be):
-blood clot soup
-stomach, stuffed with random items

when dining at a restaurant, you don't have to tip, funny enough. it almost feels unnatural not to, seeing as we tip 15% or more at home. so usually i do, even just a little bit. when they bring you your drink in a bottle, they poor half of it into the cup sitting in front of you. the restaurants are full of smoke, as everyone here smokes.

lastly, it's cheaper to order beer at a restaurant than a bottle of water. beer is $0.50 for a pint of draught, believe it or not!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

naked is normal

so we had a bit of a new experience yesterday. instead of a full practice we had half a practice, which was great fun, and then headed over to the sauna for a little lactic-acid removal. we entered this change room-type area where all the girls removed all their clothing and headed into the showers. the door to the sauna then opened, everyone dropped their towels, and there we were, sitting with half the neighbourhood (all female, thank the Lord). jackie and i looked at each other and bust out laughing. it was just one of those moments. there were ladies there, out for an evening at the sauna, socializing and chatting with their friends. for some reason, i don't think a sauna of this type would fly in canada. us canucks did bring our bathing suits with, but were told not to wear them. haha. we're making an effort to fit in, i guess. what's normal to them, hmmm, not so normal to us.

Friday, September 28, 2007

it's been a while. i'd like to say it's because it's been a busy week, but really, that would be stretching the truth just a LITTLE. is there anything 'busy' about my life in prague? not so much. but it's still purposeful and i am truly enjoying the slower pace of life. working two days a week is the WAY to go. maybe not realistic. but i am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

on tuesday we said farewell to jason. jay was here for a month, looking for work and a ball team to play with. but things didn't work out and he headed back to america on wednesday. jackie, sara and i spent a lot of time with him as he wasn't working and well, we barely do, so naturally it worked out! he became the brother in the group and a great friend, so it was tough to say farewell to him. we'll miss him tons. i don't think we'll be able to find a replacement as funny. so for the final evening, we went for a dinner at a quaint little place in prague centre. a cozy little date place, actually, not that we were using it for that purpose with 6 of us in tow... but just for future reference! there's even a "private" room couples can reserve. the pic shows the dinner crew on tuesday, from left to right: jason, sara, heather, ernie, me and jackie. dinner was great. most of the crew shared a plate "for two". it included two of: stuffed chicken, sausage, steak, hamburgers and another kind of sausage (which i think everyone steered clear of), not to mention vegetables and potatoes. again, the mystery of the sleek physique over here continues. it was quite a meal! i enjoyed some stuffed chicken and called 'er a night. i don't know how they managed to eat it all - but kudos to them! we ended the evening with some rousing games of CatchPhrase and MUCH laughter, as usual.

we had a really good conversation with our agent on thursday. or i should say, sara did. she did a stellar job of communicating with michal. we made some breakthroughs in our contract negotiations, realizing why things hadn't progressed as they had. apparently, michal didn't think we were using him as our agent and so everything he was doing us was just out of the kindness of his heart - and at his convenience. when we told him that we were paying him and had been expecting him to be our agent, all of a sudden the light went on and things started happening. it's amazing what some clear communication will do! so we are very thankful that that has been cleared up. thank you for your prayers - they have clearly been answered!

in sports news... literally, sara and jackie were on prague TV last night. on monday of last week (a night i'd taken off of practice, to reevaluate whether or not i wanted to be there and to have a little chat with big-g) they were both interviewed. there were a few clips of sara in net and jackie doing drills. they were also both interviewed and we watched them speak as the czech voiceover translated what they both said. it was very cool to know that anyone watching channel 1 news in prague got to see two small-city regina girls! michal taped it for us, so those at home can see it when we return home.

this weekend we play three games. today and sunday are against czech league teams - today's being at our home ice in kralupy, and sunday's being at the home of czech's very own jaromir JAGR in a town called kladno. tomorrow we play in salzburg, austria. we'll be leaving early in the morning, driving 6 hours, playing the game, driving back to prague, and hustling home to bed to get rested up for the game on sunday. i'm really looking forwad to the game against salzburg. they have a few canadian players - two of those being former alberta pandas i played against in the CIS as well as a former teammate of my sister's from Ohio State - erika vanderveer. i've been in touch with erika and i think both teams are looking forward to a challenging game.

it hasn't stopped raining here all week. this morning the skies opened and literally dumped on the city. it was beautiful - and the smell of rain is wonderful. i'm loving it. fall here is stretching out in all its glory. here's a picture of a neighbouring street. the rain had stopped for a bit and the trees, the cobblestone, and the general feel of this scene just had to be captured. wish you could experience it first hand... a picture truly does not do it justice!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

gong show: police, gypsies, cheap czech shots

what a title, hey? there is a logical reason for all three, believe me. it was definitely not a weekend without excitement. it all started on friday morning when i decided i'd drive to work, as we have a car now, instead of taking the metro/bus and arriving at work 30 minutes early after a 1.5 hour commute. work is only a 25 minute drive away. so i headed out on the route i'd planned the evening before, but after an hour of driving, i knew i was lost. i did eventually make it and was only 45 minutes late. thankfully my boss is totally laid back and cool, so it wasn't a big deal. you'd think i'd learn the first time, but that wasn't happening. on the way home i took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in downtown prague. 1PM on a friday, not the best time to be driving the narrow cobblestone streets of prague. somehow i managed to find my way home - again, after 1.5 hours of driving and many horns honked in my direction. it was a great learning experience though, and i wasn't stressed - i kind of enjoyed it actually. it just feels so nice to drive a car again. and in a city this beautiful, in the fall especially, i let myself enjoy it.

the second learning experience of the day came when jacks, sara, jason and i went for a stroll in our neighbourhood and to the 'underground' markets. they're cheap little vendors all in a row, right by the metro stop nearest us. i found this cute green jacket and tried it on, went to the mirror, then showed it to sara, jacks and jason who were a section away from me. this is all underground, connected, there's no distinction that the store ends or anything. to leave the store, you have to take steps up to the outside. as i'm standing there, i feel this SMACK on my back. i was kind of shocked. even a friend in jest wouldn't slap me with that kind of gusto. next thing i hear is a chinese lady screaming at me in czech and i turn to see her hands waving wildly in the air. i could tell from her body language and tone of voice that she thought i was trying to walk away with the jacket. i quickly said sorry and tried to explain to her that i was showing my friends. i followed her to the rack and gave the jacket back. sara had followed right behind me, and after i gave the jacket back we turned to leave. next thing you know, there's a snaggle-toothed gypsy lady latched onto both sara and i in a death grip that would put a cobra to shame. she was screaming at the TOP of her lungs in czech and we tried to explain to her the situation. but she wouldn't even listen to our broken czech. and she wouldn't let go. eventually she did, jason and jackie having returned at this point. i called michal, our agent, and he said to just leave. jason called billy (aia czech leader - he's lived here for 10 years) and billy said the same thing. so we all just turned to leave.

what happened next, i can't quite paint adequately with words. screaming, grabbing, chopping, crying, sara choking, a stretched out sweater, jason almost taking a chinese guy down, and finally us returning to the clothes rack to take a different approach. the older lady (snaggle-tooth), who we think was what they call a gypsy, was telling us to pay 500 czech koruns ($25) but we weren't allowed to take the jacket. it was strictly a punitive fine because they had "caught" me stealing. we weren't going with that, so they called the police. these are just a few of the things running through my head at the time... "we don't know if the police are corrupt".. "i'm going to jail"... "brokedown palace (the movie)"... "my parents are going to freak out"... "i'm going to have a record with interpol"... "is this really happening??" and on and on as i'm sure you can imagine, being the unemotional and 100% rational person that i am. long story somewhat shorter - the police arrived, talked to billy on the phone, let jackie and sara run and get jason and my passports, escorted us out of the market and gave us a ticket for 1000 kc ($50). i'm not quite sure what we paid for. billy advised us it was the simplest way to end the situation. it was that or go to the jail and figure out the story from there (assuming someone at the police station spoke czech). we went with the payment and walked away. whew. what a day.

but there's more. waiting at our flat was our czech friend, bara. she is the daughter of the club's president and it was her birthday. so she was picking us up to take us to a little down called melnik for dinner, a carnival and of course the disco. her dad had rented these cute little cabins for us to stay in, so it was an all night affair. almost the whole hockey team was there, so it was great to hang out with all of them. there were even a few of the players from years past in attendance, and they spoke fluent english having studied in north america. the carnival was fun. i went on the longest tornado ride in the history of the world. i thoroughly enjoy spinny rides, but i'm pretty sure my stomach was in my throat for most of the last 5 minutes of the ride. not even kidding, it was a marathon. we had some czech wine, candy and of course, alcohol. alcohol is so ridiculously cheap in this country. it's cheaper to buy beer on tap, than order a bottle of water. no joke. but of course, all the girls wanted to buy us shots and we had to sometimes hide from them. the first shot over dinner tasted pretty good. by 1AM at the bar, i decided i never want to so much as smell the stuff again. i was no where near intoxicated. not only does it taste disgusting, but it's cheap and therefore you'd probably have to do 10 shots to even get a buzz on. the three of us canadians peaced out at 1:30 to head back for bed. the girls went hard until 6am. they love to party here, that is for sure.

we woke up to have traditional czech food with bara and panchee, one of our teammates. the food was good. i can't say i'd eat it on a regular basis, but it was enjoyable for a once-in-a-while occurence. each plate was meat, usually pork, with either potatoes or dumplings (like potato bread), and with sauce, of course. desert was a crepe with ice cream or some deep friend plums. definitely different.

thanks for staying with me until the end. i realize i still haven't given the low-down on food, but that will come. i also have some reporting to do on work. those kids have taught me all there is to know about this culture!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

finally, a challenge...

that's strictly hockey speaking, of course. goodness knows i've had my fair share of challenges beyond the hockey world since i've been here. but back to the topic at hand.

yesterday we departed for our first EWHL road trip to bratislava to play Slovan. last week we beat them 3-0 (ending a 26 game winning streak for their club). but last night they were a different team and came out with all cylinders firing. they gave us the best game we've played since we've been here. there was less time to think, react and shoot and it was great. i felt more at home in last night's game than the sad blow outs we've had against lesser teams thus far.

at the end of the first i broke the puck out of our zone and went down on a 2-1 with Simon, one of my teammates. we played it out textbook style and put the puck in the net for a beauty of a goal. it was by far one of my favorite moments this year. i loved her (and our whole team's) excitement afterwards. it was about time we had a goal that needed celebrating. we put in another before Slovan replied with 2. our team had not been challenged much in our defensive zone, previous to last night's game, so it was good to have to battle it out and struggle at the same time. it was the first two goals that have been scored on us yet this year. about time, i might say. if that doesn't seem logical, go talk to a competitive person you know... they'll tell you a good battle with some struggle is much more satisfying than an easy win.

with the game at a 2-2 tie, we went into overtime. after an unsuccessful 5 minutes, we went into a shoot out. i was so nervous, feeling the pressure of being the import player, and i knew i was going to shoot. there was an excited energy in the stadium (which could have just been my imagination, considering the 2500 empty seats in the building). but i was excited at the same time and took a moment to enjoy the circumstances. as an import, this isn't my world and the only reality i'm a part of. but for my teammates and coaches, this is it, this is the big time, this is what they've been pouring into for many years. i'm really building this up to be something great, but don't get too excited, i didn't score. jackie shot first, no goal. slovan - no goal. then i shot, no goal - same for slovan. on it went until finally, the 6th shooter from our team put it in and there was much celebration!! the team president, mr. kott, was so pumped he grabbed both jackie and i (as we stood against the boards with the team) and gave us a big hug! it was precious, though we were both perplexed as to why he was hugging us when neither of us scored. i think it had something to do with our play helping the team to get to the point we were, i don't know. i did play the best hockey i've played since i got here, and it was so great to smile, relax and enjoy each moment like i usually do at home.

i'd like to report that sara was in net for the win, but she sat out last night's game so that one of the slovak players could play. sara was stellar as a teammate who was positive, encouraging and just an all-around example of the attitude someone should have when they're thinking of the team, and not themself. dobre sara! ("good job, sara"... in czech) she wasn't alone on the sidelines though, as our new friend, jason from virgina, and our old slovak friend from the aia tour, martina, kept her company. jason's pretty much canadian, now that he's experienced the excitement of a good hockey game. he was right into it! it was great.

on another topic, i realize i haven't given a good update (or any update at all) on some of the, ahem, spectacular food here, so i'll be prepping a good lesson, for next entry, on the ups and downs of the czech food culture. now THAT is something to look forward to...

Monday, September 17, 2007

hungry for truth

i wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from him. he alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where i will never be shaken.

so many enemies against one man - all of them trying to kill me. to them, i'm just a broken-down wall or a tottering fence. they plan to topple me from my high position. they delight in telling lies about me. they are friendly to my face, but they curse me in their hearts.

i wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. he alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where i will not be shaken. my salvation and my honour come from God alone. he is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

o my people, trust in him at all times. pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

psalm 62:1-8

Sunday, September 16, 2007

09.15.07 = drama!!

well, yesterday the big event finally happened. we got our car, a navy blue skoda (SHkodaH), four doors, fully loaded (it even has AC, dad!) and i am very thankful to say the least. yesterday was a really tough day, and the timing of finally receiving the vehicle was pretty much a god-send. with the drama that has happened with having too many import players and therefore some unhappy teammates, combined with slavia not coming through with the contract yet, combined with Karel picking apart every defense between the 1st and 2nd period (more on that later), i'd about had enough. i was beginning to wonder why i was sitting there taking this abuse, when i didn't have to be, and slavia wasn't even coming through on their end of the deal... would they ever? but, the Lord definitely knows how much we can handle, because his timing was impeccable, and he's blessed me with two great christian teammates to share this journey with and help me through the times when i feel hopeless or just lost. i was also feeling pretty homesick and i just wanted to see my mom and dad! mr. happy, one of the assistant coaches (his name in czech literally means 'happy', so we call him mr. happy, which is much easier than the czech word for it!) anyways, mr. happy was very kind as well and even though he doesn't speak any english, his concern was evident and i much appreciated the fatherly hug from him! bless his heart. anyways, today is a new day and i'm looking forward to playing another match, even though its in the czech league and we've been annihilating these teams. oh well, it's hockey, so i'm happy.

i've never been coached by a person whose philosophy is personal attacks when he doesn't like how you're playing, so yesterday it was a bit of a shock to have Karel come in and yell at me for my play in the 1st... in front of the whole team, spit flying, cursing left and right. it's definitely not the best way to get a message across or motivate a player. i was ticked.... lets just say if there was a direct bus from the rink to the airport, i might have been on it. thankfully, there wasn't one, so i was forced to stay there and tough it out, which is good for me, i'm sure. i guess that first experience is overwith now, so i'll be better prepared for next time.

all in all, yesterday was a rough day. definitely the worst since i've been here, but i suppose that is normal and there will be more to come.

in contrast of the earlier part of the day, we went for a supper at our new friends' place, phil and shanna. they are a couple from South Carolina doing a church plant here and they are awesome. they had us three hockey girls over, along with 3 of the aia guys for some awesome eats, a good chat and, of course, much laughter. i was so appreciative of the evening.

that's all i'll say about my rollercoaster of a day. have a good one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

we need prayer!

today was a tough day. we thought we were going to get our car, as we had been told yesterday that today was likely the day, but alas, we were left disappointed. we really need wisdom right now because we still do not have our contract signed, we don't have our car, as previously mentioned, nor a washing machine, metro pass, cel phones, or many other things that we've been promised. the biggest thing is the contract. we're debating how to play this out right now, so if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would truly be awesome.

other than that, things are good. today we spent a few hours walking around downtown prague and looking for shoes for jackie. her size 11 feet are a little hard to find shoes for, so we're still on the hunt for the perfect pair. we had practice tonight too and have two games this weekend. tomorrow we play Budapest, Hungary and sunday is a czech league game. i can't remember the name of the team we play, but it'll be another day trip.

in other news, i'm adjusting to the smell of body odour that we cannot escape from as regular frequenters of the metro and public transportation systems. it really baffles me that men and women who smell like this can get married, go to work, feel comfortable in public, not to mention exist in their own skin without wondering what the wonky smell is that's constantly following them. another interesting thing about prague is that there are dogs everywhere. everyone has a dog. they go on the metro and the bus, and they're often not on leashes. but they're very well behaved and stick with their owners. they don't even bark at us when we walk by. the only downside is the constant presense of poo on the sidewalks. though the evening garbage collectors and sidewalk washers seem to take care of those little nasty piles during the nighttime. unfortunately, i was woken this morning by these very people.

if you'd like to learn some czech, read this portion. if not, skip to the next paragraph. the word for the day is "dobry". it means, good, good job, well, etc. it can be used in pretty much every situation, and believe me, we do. there are many different endings for the word, depending on the context in which it is used. naturally, we have no idea how these endings work, so we just say whatever we feel like. the czechs understand. sometimes it's dobre, dobra, dobja... etc. we're trying, we just keep telling ourselves this.

anyways, i'll cut the rambling. thanks for your prayers and i'll write again at the next opportunity. ahoj :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

big win

we had our fifth regular season game tonite. so far we're 5-0. our big win came against Slovan out of Bratislava. it was a 3-0 win, with Sara getting the shut out. the girls were pretty excited after the game. last year Slavia was unable to get a victory over Slovan so tonite was great. we play them again next wednesday, so i'm sure it'll be another battle. it was a much better game than the previous ones we've had. we actually spent some time in our defensive zone and us defense got a better workout.

we still don't have a car, so we've been getting a ride out to Kralupy (50kms... our home ice) with coach Karel. i'm 100% convinced that he doesn't want us to get a vehicle, because as soon as we get into the car after practice or a game, he's asking us what we thought of either practice or training. it's tough to say much beyond 'good', 'bad', 'okay', etc. though our hockey vocabularies are steadily growing. it's evident that Karel is pretty excited to have us here and not only that, to get our input on the game and let us influence things here. it's a pretty cool situation to be in. he wants us to shoot when we enter the offensive zone, as opposed to making 100 passes to produce a 'beautiful' goal. i think he is a unique czech in this.

i'm only working 2 days a week, for 6 hours a day, which is awesome. i'm staying out of the real world as LONG as possible! haha. i'm starting to enjoy it, slowly but surely as i get to know the kids. it's a nursery school for kids aged 3-6. they don't speak much english, but understand some. they're starting to grow on me and i'm becoming less scary to them as a non-Czech speaker. but i'm learning from them too, which is sweet. i'll start to write some of the happenings of the Uhonice Skola for your reading enjoyment... this is a different culture on many levels.

the AIA crew is out of town this weekend for a conference just outside Prague, so it's a bit quieter here. it's been awesome to immediately have a family away from home. such a sweet thing about God's family. love it. we're heading to a bible study tomorrow night with some Americans we met last week, who happen to know the AIA crew. i love "coincidences". God is good and i'm enjoying the peace of knowing that this is where i'm supposed to be.

i'll sign off for now and look forward to talking to ya'll (as my American friends would say) very soon.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

seven weeks later...

i know this is long overdue. in fact, seven weeks overdue, but i am finally getting my blog set up and giving everyone a chance to read about my life in prague... and keep me filled in on what they are up to at home. because i miss you all!

we've just recently moved into our own place in a nice area, close to everything we need like the metro, food, the post office and of course, the Athletes in Action staff and stinters here. we're a two minute walk from Erin and Heather, two of our new AIA friends and everyone else is a short tram ride away.

so i guess to go back in time, i'll start from the beginning and give a "brief" synopsis. at least, i'll try and make it brief!...

our first week in the czech republic was spent in Strakonice, a small city an hour outside Prague. it was kind of scary to walk into the dressing room for the first time, set down our stuff and look around at our teammates, none of which we knew. then coach Karel started out in a 20 minute pre-training camp talk in Czech, none of which we understood. obviously! it was a tough week. we trained on the ice two times a day and off ice once a day. the Czechs sure know how to bag skate their players. i've never before been skated quite like we were that week. it was easy to adjust to the new time as we were so tired after the days that sleep was a welcome friend come bedtime. we learned a bit of czech that first week... fork, knife, spoon, etc... thank you and please, the proper basics. it was fun and we started to get to know our teammates a little. as the week went on we realized that the slovak girl sitting beside us in the dressing room understands English completely. haha. probably a good thing to know. a few others surfaced as knowing a bit of English, but no one is fluent enough to understand us when we speak normal English. i experienced first hand czech style coaching. when frustrated with one of the girls, Karel shot a puck at her, then threw his stick at her, next both his gloves were fired at her head! none of them hit her -not sure they were really supposed to, be we all got the message!

btw - our team name is HC Slavia Praha... you may have heard of it before as we are affiliated with the hockey and football (soccer) clubs here as well.

that week moved into week 2, where the AIA Canada team arrived for the International Training camp in Kralupy, Czech Republic. we were joined by the czech team, a team from Bratislava and both the English senior and junior teams. our team was small, which was frustrating at times. we had 5 skaters and two goalies, so were joined by czech girls for each game. but God knew what he was doing and we had great opportunities to get to know girls from all the teams and build new relationships. it was also a great group from Canada and just what I needed after a tough week in Strakonice. the fellowship was awesome.

the past four and a half weeks have consisted of practice once a day, lazing around watching movies, exploring the city, going for supper with friends and hanging out with teammates. it's been a nice, quiet end to the summer.

i'll leave it at that for now and go into more detail on my posts as new things come up. i don't want to lose readership due to being incredibly long winded, which i could easily be if i don't stop now.

hope everyone is well at home. know that i think of you all and miss you incredibly! i wish you could really see what life is like here. i'm well and happy and enjoying the adventure.

chelsa XOXO